Once Upon a Winter’s Eve (Spindle Cove #1.5)

Once Upon a Winter's EveBy Tessa Dare

Publisher: Samhain Publishing Ltd.
Publication Date: November 15, 2011
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: Purchased

Some wallflowers bloom at night…

A Spindle Cove Novella

Violet Winterbottom is a quiet girl. She speaks six languages, but seldom raises her voice. She endured bitter heartbreak in perfect silence. The gentlemen aren’t beating down her door.

Holiday Reading ChallengeUntil the night of the Spindle Cove Christmas ball, when a mysterious stranger crashes into the ballroom and collapses at Violet’s feet. His coarse attire and near-criminal good looks would put any sensible young lady on her guard. He’s wet, chilled, bleeding, and speaking in an unfamiliar tongue.

Only Violet understands him. And she knows he’s not what he seems.

She has one night to draw forth the secrets of this dangerously handsome rogue. Is he a smuggler? A fugitive? An enemy spy? She needs answers by sunrise, but her captive would rather seduce than confess. To learn his secrets, Violet must reveal hers—and open herself to adventure, passion, and the unthinkable… Love.

Warning: The heroine packs a pistol, the hero curses in multiple languages, and together they steam up a cold winter’s night.

Goodreads Summary

Violet Winterbottom left London for quiet little Spindle Cove following what she called, “The Disappointment” – a tryst with a man she’d known since childhood who didn’t return her feelings and was gone the following day. Despite her wish to stay hidden away with her friends, after this final Christmas ball in the Cove, her family is expecting her to return to London and find a suitable match.

The Christmas Ball is interrupted by a filthy, bloody man bursting into the ballroom and collapsing at Violet’s feet. This stranger – who seems frighteningly familiar despite his battered, scarred face – won’t let go of her and speaks a language that may indicate he’s a spy, washed ashore. As a search party is gathered to look for any other survivors of a possible wrecked spy vessel, Violet is left to watch over the intruder – but once they’re alone, she finds out it was no accident that brought him there and he’s no stranger to her.

I haven’t read the first Spindle Cove book and I don’t think you have to in order to enjoy this. I’m an enormous Tessa Dare fan and I’m pretty sure I’ve jumped into most of her series’ after the first book and ended up backtracking and it was perfectly fine. She has a lovely way of putting characters from other books into scenes without making you feel like you’ve missed an entire vital back story, no matter how big their contribution.

The plot is nicely condensed for the size of the novella and takes place over the course of a night with a bit of an epilogue. Even in just a little bit of time, there’s a lot of adventure going on – people getting tied up, knocked out, innocent dress forms are molested, Violet gets herself thoroughly ruined a second time and the Cove’s militia is roused. It was fun that while Christian may have been the great spy – or something – it was Violet who led the way and saved him when he needed it.

Violet begins the story as a bit of a dejected girl holding up the corner of the ballroom. She’s been discarded by the man she’s loved for years and believing all she has to offer anyone is her ability to speak about a dozen languages, she’d rather just stay in Spindle Cove. Even before she knows who this brute at her feet is, she’s getting stronger and more confident and by mid-story, it was pretty clear he’d have some work to do to be worthy of her this time. Still, even when she was ready to smack him down, Violet never lost her compassion for Christian, keeping her from tipping into a shrill or angry jilted lover.

I just don’t know if I have it in me to love Christian as much as Violet did. He was sort of a…disappointment. I think it may just have been the nature of the beast of a novella that did it – if this had been a longer format, maybe he would have had a better chance to redeem himself. I enjoyed the beginning segment when Violet wasn’t completely sure who he was and I really loved it when Violet stood up to him while she was helping him. The more he was explaining his actions in London and pleading his case though, the more I started to want to tie him back up in the ballroom.

Any weaknesses in the story would be exactly what you’d expect in a novella. There’s not enough room to really develop the characters or their relationship fully, so when they declare their love it feels a little too fast. Obviously I knew Christian and Violet had a past and it was delved into quite a bit and passionately, I only mostly believed in his redemption and probably because he sure did say it nicely. I liked all of the action while Violet and Christian were running around the Cove, but it did stretch on for a while and it wouldn’t surprise me if some people thought it was a bit too long.

My Summary: I just love the sense of humor that Dare uses in everything she writes – it’s mostly just a gentle smile here and there in this story, a reminder that not everything has to be taken completely seriously. Christian and Violet’s story is one of my favorite types, the friends-to-lovers trope, although it’s condensed enough into a novella format that it’s a little hard to recognize. Christian’s plot to find her before she went home no matter what is a terrifically romantic concept and I loved the heroine and her courage – the hero will have to work on himself a little though.

My Rating: B+




  1. I have had this book on my wishlist ever since I saw its eye-catching cover, so thank you for the detailed and interesting review!

  2. Hi Stella – I'm such a fan of Tessa's that this was kind of a no-brainer for me. 🙂

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